Essay Preview: Belgium
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Royaume de Belgique / Koninkrijk BelgiÐ»
Belgium is a small, highly developed and densely populated country (10 million of inhabitants) at the cross-roads of Western Europe. Belgium is one of the founding members of the European Community, and its capital, Brussels, is also the capital of the European Union.
It is a federal state, with 3 relatively autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, where the language is Dutch (“Flemish”), Wallonia in the south, where the language is French, and the centrally located Brussels, which is officially bilingual. Belgiums rich history has left impressive churches, town halls, castles and works of art, dating back to the early Middle Ages, spread around the cities and country-side.
Belgium has possibly the highest “quality of life” in the world, as testified by its excellent food, housing, health care, education and infrastructure, its world records for high productivity and low poverty, and the appreciation of foreigners residing in Belgium.
BELGIUM IN BRIEF
10,396,421 inhabitants (2003)(source 1)
30,528 km2(source 2)
Head of State:
King Albert II
National languages :
Dutch, French and German
the euro (EUR)
283.7 billions of EUR
Annual growth rate:
2,7 % (2004)(source 3)
Time zone :
GMT + 1 hour
Summer time, from the last Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October:
GMT + 2 hours
Weights and measures:
339 inhabitants per km2
Maximum distance between two points:
Signal de Botrange (694 m)
9,8Ñ” Celsius (source 4)
Belgian people are far from being uniform and united. There are three communities living there. The Flemish, in the north of the country, speak Dutch. They are the most numerous. Then come the Walloons, in the south, who speak French. Brussels is a bilingual region. However, most of its inhabitants are French-speaking. Finally, in the extreme east of the country there is a small German-speaking community. The Flemish population and the Walloons have many differences in culture. The Flemish regions are wealthier than the Waloon regions and the Flemish people often refer to the
Waloons as “lazy” people. As a result of these differences and prejudices, the two groups sometimes clash. There have been weeks of unrest between these groups in the past.
These characteristics make attempts to describe the Belgian population difficult. Nevertheless a number of characteristics can be found in most Belgians.
So, they are generally modest and moderate. They are also said to be good hosts and bons vivants. The innumerable cafÐ¹s and restaurants are evidence of that. In spite of that they are considered to be good workers. The productivity rate is one of the highest in the world.
Belgians also have a reputation of investing a lot of money in their homes and, as building sites are becoming increasingly rare (the population density per km2 works out at 315), there is a boom in renovation.
Although the number of marriages continues to fall, the family remains one of the basic values of Belgian society. But nevertheless, just like other countries in the European Union, families in Belgium are becoming smaller and smaller. The fertility rate is 1.56 children per woman. So Belgium is faced with an ageing population, 15% of whom are older than 65. Life expectancy is 75 years for men and 81 years for women.
The Belgians also share the same Constitution: the obligation to vote and freedom of religion are recorded in it. In education, the obligation to attend school is also governed by laws. It covers 12 years and applies to all young people from 6 to 18 years.
The society is based on solidarity. In spite of the ageing of the population, the social security system works perfectly. Family benefit, pensions, medical insurance, unemployment benefit and paid leave are distributed to those who are eligible. The health care is among the best in the world and, according to a survey, almost 80% of Belgians consider their health to be good to very good.
National Day, flag, anthem and motto
Belgium is an ancient and yet still young nation. Belgians were first mentioned about 2,000 years ago (by Julius Caesar in his book on the Gallic Wars). Nevertheless, Belgium was for centuries part of a larger state structure.
State of Belgium was born on October 4, 1830.
National Day is celebrated on July 21. Its commemorates the day on which Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium, on July 21st 1831.
November 15 is the Kings day. This day was also the day on whixh King Leopold was baptised. In 1951, King Boudewijn decded to fix this date as the kings day.
Apart from these, every district has its own celebration days.
Anthem: the “BrabanÐ*onne” (the text only exists in French and Dutch)
Flag: three vertical stripes: black, yellow and red
Motto: “LUnion fait la force – Eendracht maakt macht” (Strength lies in unity)
GEOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF BELGIUM
Belgium is situated in the west of Europe, bordered to the north by the Netherlands, to the east by Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to the south and the west by France. Although its surface